National Preparedness Month: Creating & Storing an Emergency Water Supply
Following a disaster, your local water supply may not be available or safe to drink. If this is the case, you will need your own water supply until your water service is restored or an alternate emergency supply is available. During National Preparedness Month, the City of Hillsboro Water Department encourages and reminds customers to be ready for disasters or emergencies and prepare by building a supply of water that will meet your family’s needs.
Determining Water Needs
Your emergency water supply should include enough water to sustain your entire household (pets too!) for 14 days. Why? In the event of a major earthquake, it is likely that local water systems and other infrastructure could be severely damaged, and it will take time for emergency supplies to reach the greater Hillsboro area. Until they arrive, you will have to rely on your own resources.
If you’re interested in taking a creative selfie with your emergency water and entering the #14Gallons Challenge Photo Contest, learn more on the Regional Water Providers Consortium’s website.
Store what you can, where you can. You have options!
- Option 1: Use your own sanitized containers.
- Option 2: Purchase bottled water.
You can keep your emergency water supply in bottles that you purchase from a store, or you can use your own container. If you purchase commercially bottled water, keep it in its original container and do not open it until you need to use it.
If you choose to store water in your own container, make sure that it has a tight seal, is made of food-grade plastic or steel that is designed to hold water, and is properly sanitized before you fill it with tap water. You can find a variety of food grade containers at most camping or outdoor stores. Two liter soda bottles can also be reused to store water.
Your emergency water supply should be switched out every six months.
Sanitize Storage Containers
- Wash the container and lid with dish soap and water.
- Rinse it completely with clean water.
- Mix 1 teaspoon of unscented liquid household chlorine bleach and one quart of water.
- Pour the bleach water solution into your container.
- Cover the container and shake it for 30 seconds – make sure that the bleach water covers all inside surfaces of the container.
- Pour the bleach water out of the container.
- Air-dry your empty sanitized container.
- Your container is ready to fill.
Locations to Keep Your Emergency Water Supply
Your emergency water supply should ideally be stored in a consistently cool, dark location. Storage locations will vary depending on the amount of space that you have available in your home, and the size and number of your storage containers. Make sure your emergency water supply is easily accessible and able to be carried with you in case you have to leave your home in a hurry.
Uncertain about the purity of any water source during or after an emergency? Make it safe to drink by treating it before you use it for drinking, food preparation, or hygiene. Most water can be treated through boiling, disinfection, filtering, or purification. Regardless of the method that you use, make sure that the container(s) you use to treat and store your drinking water in are sanitized.
- Boiling: Before boiling, strain your water by pouring your water through a clean cloth, paper towel, or coffee filter. Place water in a clean pot or other container in which you can use to boil water safely. Bring water to a rolling boil for at least one minute. Let cool, then use. Store the boiled water in clean sanitized containers with tight covers for up to a week.
- Bleach: Place water in a clean container. Add unscented liquid household chlorine bleach to your water. For clear water, add 1/8 teaspoon (8 drops or about 0.75 milliliters) of bleach for each gallon (16 cups) of water. For cloudy water, add ¼ teaspoon or 16 drops of bleach per gallon. Mix well and let sit for 30 minutes before using. Disinfected water can be used for one week if stored in a clean, closed container.
- Purification Tablets or Iodine: Follow instructions provided on or with the packaging.
- Personal Water Filters: Choose a filter with pore size small enough to remove both bacteria and parasites. Carefully read and follow manufacturer instructions.
Emergency Water Sources
Depending on the severity of a disaster, you may need to find alternate water sources that are safe to drink. Several sources that you can use in and around your home include:
- Hot Water Heater: Your home’s water heater could provide you with 30-80 gallons of water for drinking, cooking, and hygiene. View a how-to video.
- Home Water Pipes: Locate and shut off your home’s main water valve, turn on a faucet located at the highest point in your home, then, use a faucet located at the lowest point in your home as your water source, shutting it on and off as-needed.
- Melted Ice Cubes: Make sure that the ice was made from uncontaminated water or treat the water before consuming it.
- Commercially Bottled Beverages: Consume juice, sodas, or other drinks that you have around the house.
- Canned Fruits and Vegetables: Look for contents that are packed in water; however, other canned food liquids can be consumed if needed.
- Outdoor Water Sources: Before utilizing rainwater, streams, rivers, and other moving bodies of water, ponds and lakes, and natural springs, make sure to treat or filter it before drinking, food preparation, or hygiene.
DO NOT utilize water for drinking from your toilet bowl or tank, radiators, or water beds, water from your pool, hot tub, flood water, water that has floating materials in it or that has an unusual odor or color, or water you know or suspect might be contaminated with fuel, heavy metals, or toxic chemicals.
Actions Hillsboro Water is Taking to Prepare
Along with public health, one of the City of Hillsboro Water Department’s primary goals is for customers to have access to safe, high-quality water as quickly as possible after an emergency. To help meet this goal:
- The City of Hillsboro is partnering with the Tualatin Valley Water District to develop the mid-Willamette River as an additional water supply source for customers and will provide reliability and redundancy following a disaster or other service interruptions. The facilities are being designed to the latest seismic standards. With two independent water sources – the upper-Tualatin River and the mid-Willamette River – Hillsboro’s system will be better able to respond to a temporary disruption in one water source. Details are available online.
- The Water Department, along with many other regional water providers, has purchased portable emergency water distribution systems. These systems can tap into fire hydrants, reservoirs, or other points of water distribution and serve as a central point to hand out containers of water to customers in need.
- New infrastructure, including water pipes, are designed and built to meet rigorous seismic standards in order to withstand earthquakes. In fact, the Water Department is working alongside Joint Water Commission partners to complete a multi-year water treatment expansion, improvements project, and facility plan for the JWC Water Treatment Plant. Learn more online.
- The Hillsboro Water Department is a strong partner in regional planning efforts. The Water Department is an active participant in the Regional Water Providers Consortium Emergency Planning Committee and the Oregon Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network. Staff makes it a priority to participate in City, County, and State emergency preparedness training, drills and exercises.
Being prepared is part of the Water Department’s daily work. While we’re working to be ready following a disaster, the department encourages all customers to play an active role in their personnel preparedness.